How much do you take into account the opposition's injuries when you are making up a gameplan?
Alvarez: Really not at all. We try to study their tendencies on offense, what they try to feature, what their strengths are. Defensively, how they defend certain formations and some of the things that we do, what they try to feature. Same thing with the kicking game. People build their offenses…you feature different people if you have an injury to a key person. You may try to feature someone else, yet you still have to have a scheme and something that you practice day in and day out. I think in this case Northern (Illinois), they hung their hats on how they want to go about their business on both sides of the ball. It's too bad what happened to that running back, but that's their scheme. We've had things happen to key players, but you have to believe in what you're doing an have people ready behind them.
Do you have a familiarity with Joe Novak, with his background at Indiana?
Alvarez: Yes. He's very well thought of in our profession. We played against him many years when he was coaching at Indiana, and I always had a great deal of respect for him. When you watch his teams play, the thing you see, you see a team that's coached well. Fundamentally they're very good. They're sound in everything they do. They play hard. They don't beat themselves. They're a team that you have to beat. They're not going to go out there and make mistakes. They're going to execute.
Do you know if the ankle Darrin Charles hurt is the same one he hurt in camp, or was it the other one?
Alvarez: I don't know. I don't know.
When R.J. Morse first came here, he had a big leg but was very raw. Did you anticipate he would be as useful as he has been, pinning teams deep?
Alvarez: He's developed a pretty good knack to get the ball up and hang it. I probably made a mistake in that last game in not taking the penalty and asking him to pull a little bit back on the last punt. It just barely went into the end zone. I probably should have given him a little more room to operate. But even a year ago, we used him to directional kick against some of the better return guys in our league, guys that we play, and he was able to do that. But I'm really impressed just with how he's improved his technique. His get-off time is right around two seconds. He's really worked on his hands. He's always had a strong leg. He's put a lot of work in, and it doesn't surprise me that he's been able to put the ball where he wants it and pull the string a little bit when necessary.
How much improvement is that get-off time from last year?
Alvarez: Oh, probably half a second. Brian Murphy could be more specific.
With all the talent you've had in young receivers this year, did that come as a result of a change in your recruiting philosophy at all?
Alvarez: No, we just hit on them. We've recruited some pretty good receivers. You go all the way back to Donald Hayes and Tony Simmons, and Chris Chambers, and Lee (Evans), Ahmad Merritt has been a good receiver. We've had some good receivers. Some haven't panned out and sometimes you get lucky. And in recruiting, guys still have to come in. Many of them are from out-of-state, they have to make that adjustment. They have to make the adjustment to the speed of college football, let alone coming to a new area, making the adjustment to college like all freshmen do. So some are able to do that easier than others. Some grow and mature better than others and become better players. We're fortunate some of our younger guys have been able to help right away, and came in ready to play right away.
Anthony Davis looked pretty good as a receiver coming out of the backfield the other day. Is that a viable option to get the ball in his hands more frequently?
Alvarez: That's not designed just to throw him the ball. He's a checkdown. Brooks (Bollinger) is looking down the field, and that's your last resort if they're dropping off and they give you deep linebacker coverage or a blitz and you have a cushion in there. He checks his protection first, and then leaks and works into the pass route. So I like what that brings us. That was one of our points of emphasis in the spring, to improve your completion percentage and that's one way you do it is dump the ball off to your backs.
Are you comfortable with the amount of carries Davis has had in the last two weeks?
Alvarez: Yes I am. 20 and 19. That's about where he should be.
Some guys in the past, you've said needed to get lathered up and get a ton of carries to get going. Is there any possible drawback to not giving him more carries?
Alvarez: He gets the ball enough. I mean, he gets the ball enough and the important thing for me is to have him for 13 games and to keep him fresh during the game. He's not the same type of back that Ron (Dayne) was. He's a totally different type of back, and I think it's important to keep him fresh for four quarters.
Has Anthony improved his hands?
Alvarez: Considerably. Considerably. He didn't come in here with the best of hands. But he's improved. I thought the catches the other day, he really concentrates on the ball, and I thought he made a couple of pretty difficult catches the other day. Catches where he had to use his hands.
As good as Dwayne Smith has been, would you like to redshirt Booker Stanley now?
Alvarez: Booker has a tailbone that's acted up on him. It's something that he had in high school. So consequently, we're going to try to hold him this year.
This year will mark the one-year anniversary of September 11. What changes have you noticed in the way the team has to travel and so forth?
Alvarez: Well you know what? We were originally told when we traveled, we would have to go through security, go through all airports. And that has been appealed. All teams were going to have to do that, all charter flights. And since, there's been an appeal made to that, and I don't know when that decision is going to come up. I think other than that, I really don't see or notice much different now. Immediately afterwards, there were considerable differences, but right now we go on a charter. It's pretty much business as usual.
Are there ever any indications going into games where teams get upset, that something like that could happen?
Alvarez: Well I think most of that happens during the game, where you turn it over, where you have penalties, where you just don't play well and someone else plays a pretty good ballgame against you. We've been on the other side of that too. I mean that's why you play the game. I don't know if any coach can put his finger on why you're upset or what happens. I think it's probably a multitude of things. But if you go back and study any of them, I'll guarantee it has to do with turnovers and mistakes that you made during the game. I mean, you could get into that whole mental aspect of it if you want, but I prefer not to do that.
Do you have to protect against overconfidence this week?
Alvarez: Well I think our guys haven't had an easy time in any game. And we'll make sure that our young players understand when they watch this film, this is a pretty good football team we're playing. And we certainly aren't good enough to be overconfident against anyone. We haven't done anything to say that we should be overconfident. We haven't played particularly well. We've played well in spurts, but we haven't played a four-quarter game yet. We haven't cleaned up our mistakes. The one thing we have done well is not turn the ball over, so the thing I try to do is worry about what we do. About how we play, the mistakes we make and cleaning up mental errors. Continuing not turning the ball over. Our penalties are ridiculous in all three phases. So those are things I worry about. If you're a student of the game and if players listen to the coaches and watch film, they'll see that they'll have their hands full. We're going to play hard and fundamentally we're going to have to be better this week than we have been.
Has it been easier to make some adjustments at halftime with young players like Dwayne Smith who was No. 1 in his class, or Jonathan Orr who was a class president? You have some pretty sharp young guys.
Alvarez: I think a lot of that has to do with maturity. Not being overwhelmed by the situation. Not being overwhelmed by the crowd and what's going on around you but being able to concentrate on what a coach is telling you. Being able to see and feel and know what's happening on the field and being able to articulate that on the sidelines. And then understand what your coach is trying to tell you while you're sitting there. Sometimes it takes a number of years for that to happen. When you have a bright young man, and the coaches do a good job of making those adjustments, I think it obviously has been easier. But I think it's the maturity they bring to the table as well as their intelligence that's really helped them.
Is there a point in the game when most of these adjustments are made, or is it a game-long process?
Alvarez: Adjustments are made every series. Obviously earlier in the game, they're more important. Because normally you go in, and people are doing something on both sides of the ball. On defense they are going to see formations and motions they've never seen. A play isn't going to bother you. You don't make adjustments to a play. But you make adjustments to formations. You make adjustments to strength of formation changes. You try to study how people are trying to take advantage of what you do, and you have to counter that. On offense, normally we see some type of a scheme that's going to get somebody in the box, or a blitz that we haven't seen before or we haven't practiced. Now if we haven't practiced it, now we've got to be able to communicate what's going on on the field to the players and then make the adjustments from there. Normally those go on early in the game. The good teams normally have something different to start the second half, and then you go through the same process again.
Is there always something you see in every game that's new? Or do you ever take care of everything in preparation?
Alvarez: Well you only have so much time to practice. You only get so many repetitions. You can't practice against ghosts. You can't say, `Watch this, watch that, watch this, I've never seen him do this, but let's practice it anyhow.' I mean, you practice what people do and you try to get some basic adjustment philosophies to your team if in case certain things happen, but you can't get specific on what people are going to do. And you just don't have enough time to repetition everything.
Barry Alvarez Verbatim: Monday Press Conference
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